Lead poisoning, it has been revealed is the biggest killer of Endangered California condors. The peregrine fund, that also raises and frees the condors found that the poisonous metal was also affecting birds that are bred in captivity.
The Idaho-based conservation organization released a report on Thursday that points out how lead poisoning is the number one cause for the illness and death of the rare condors. Lead poisoning caused half the condor deaths that occurred over the winter in the Arizona-Utah population. The same rate is consistent with the entire population in California, Arizona and Utah.
The Peregrine Fund has a condor release site at Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, between Utah’s southern border and the north rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. The organization has been releasing birds in that region since 1996.
When the necropsies of the condors were done, it was found that lead poisoning was the cause for the death of half the population of the birds.
To investigate further the organization captured almost all condors in Arizona and Utah and found that 39 percent of them had toxic levels of lead in their blood. The birds were immediately treated with chelation therapy.
Past studies have revealed how condors may ingest lead when they eat dead animals that have been killed by hunters using lead bullets.
Chris Parish, director of The Peregrine Fund’s condor reintroduction project said, “Anyone who kills an animal, including those dispatching livestock and hunting varmints, can make a significant impact by simply switching to non-lead ammunition like solid copper bullets, which rarely fragment.”